It's less than a year since Microsoft launched the current version of Power BI, its self-service business analytics cloud service. The service gets weekly updates – for example you'll soon be able to see your Power BI dashboards on an Apple Watch or inside Cortana.
It now has over five million subscribers and corporate vice president James Phillips calls it "arguably the world's most widely delivered business intelligence tool". It's so popular that Microsoft sold out a recent conference covering the service without spending any money advertising it.
It's also been very popular with software developers who wanted to be able to build Power BI into their own software. "Every software company sees the same thing," Phillips told techradar pro, "data is exploding and the ability to take that and do interesting things with it so you can provide more productive apps is the opportunity everyone wants to embrace."
So now, as well as users being able to take a dashboard of charts, graphs, tables and other reports that they've built in Power BI and embed it live on a website, developers can use a new Azure service, Microsoft Power BI Embedded, to take the features of the Power BI service and put them into their own apps and services.
They do that using APIs that send data to Power BI, which creates and renders reports that they can display. "We have an API for embedding which gives you the ability to get data out of the Power BI service, a control API that allows you to interact with the service so you can create artefacts like dashboards and data sets, and an API that allows you to push your own data into Power BI to work with," Phillips explained.
"That permits you to do almost the complete range of what's possible in the user interface [of the existing cloud service]. One area we have a bit more work to do on is automating the creation of brand new reports or dashboards. We decided to start with reports and cloud data and quickly fill in everything else you can do with Power BI today.
"We focused on reports to start with rather than dashboards because reports are the magic. Dashboards are a great way to, in real-time, stay current, but interactive reports and the ability to slice and dice and cross-filter and ask questions; that's what we uniquely provide."
Phillips further claimed: "Power BI Embedded on Azure provides an off-the-shelf solution that has far more power than any one software vendor building a vertical application could do." And Paul Maher, the CTO of Milliman, told techradar pro the same thing.